Today, July 8, we mark two years to the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Looking back on the war of 2014 could help Israel to prepare for the next campaign in the Gaza Strip, which might occur any time.
In 2014 Israel bombed objectives and seized for several weeks a tiny part of the Gaza Strip while Hamas launched rockets and infiltrated into Israel. Israel could have done much more i.e. to conquer all the Gaza Strip and / cause much more destruction but Israel limited its actions while the Hamas did its best to harm Israelis. Therefore Hamas proved its hostile intentions and Israel showed restraint that saved lives of both Israelis and Palestinian noncombatants.
By not seizing all the Gaza Strip Israel avoided ramifications such as the need to take care of about 1.8 million Palestinians, many of them are so poor that they rely on food distribution from the UN. The Gaza Strip has also crumbling infrastructure, which Israel would have to fix in order to provide basic services. The PA (Palestinian Authority) might not be much help in this matter, with all its desire to regain control of the Gaza Strip, a territory the PA lost in 2007 when Hamas took over. Israel should remember that in case there is another round with Hamas.
The war of 2014 lasted 50 days, which might have been too long. However, Israel needed only a small part of its reserves, its expenses were not very high and its economy was not badly damaged. The war did not disrupt Israel’s economy to such a degree that the IDF had to gain a quick victory, in order to save the economy form a meltdown. This stands in contrast to past wars like in 1967. By tolerating the continuance of the war in 2014 Israel demonstrated it could handle it not only in the economic level. The Israeli population proved their willingness to hold on. Those factors would play a key role in another round in the Gaza Strip.
During the war of 2014 Israel gave Hamas several opportunities to keep a cease fire, which presented Israel as the side that wishes to end the fight. Furthermore as long as the war dragged on Israel had more time to gather more information, learn lessons etc. which was essential if eventually the IDF had to penetrate deeper into the Gaza Strip. Such process was vital since the IDF was not fully ready for combat in 2014, particularly in aspects like tunnel warfare. Leaning more about those issues would have assisted in reducing Israeli casualties down the road. Those considerations might be relevant again in case of another round.
In 2014, Israel fought in one front solely against Hamas, a relatively weak non state organization that had no allies. Since the war of 2014 Hamas has been investing in its build up like producing rockets and digging tunnels. Nevertheless Hamas is not necessarily stronger than it was in the war of 2014. There is also a certain rift between Hamas and its Iranian patron, so Hamas might find itself facing Israel alone, again.
As in 2014 now too Hamas has been contained in the Gaza Strip since its two neighbors, Israel and Egypt, oppose Hamas and work to stop the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Therefore Hamas has great difficulties in resupplying his forces.
Israel has overwhelming military superiority over Hamas. However in 2014 there were fierce clashes due to the nature of the battlefield: urban areas where the IDF ran into many IED and ambushes. Since then the IDF has been training for the next war. For example in late June the IDF conducted a series of drills, on land, air and sea that were aimed against threats like Hamas.